Ask Willis - April - 1999

Hey Willis,
Hope all is going well on the other side of the drink. Here's a picture of my boy listening to 'Thick' from, oddly enough, 'Thick'. Notice he's got that sort of glazed over "don't-talk-to-me-I'm-trying-to-listen-already" look happening that most musicians (and in very extreme cases, although I've never actually seen it, even drummers) get.


Hey Willis,
Nice Website. I started playing the cello at the age of 9 and moved onto bass at the age of sixteen. But for the last seven years I have been studying architecture. I have continued to practice over the years but my sight-reading and theory has deteriorated somewhat. I am keen to get back into music (full-time, if possible). What do you recommend? I live in Central London (UK) and there are a few schools/colleges (MI or BASSTECH) offering one year courses. Would a one year full-time course be more useful than private lessons? How should I approach getting back on the scene?

I enjoyed your clinic at the BASS CENTRE, WAPPING last year, thanks.

Cheers Ashley

Thanks Ashley
As far as getting back into a learning situation, the most important thing is how much playing you'll be able to do. All the lessons and study in the world don't add up to "hands on" experience you can get, especially if it's playing with other players that are better than you. That kind of playing experience probably accounted for 70% of what I got out of college. Try to find a situation where the most good players are and where you'll get the most playing opportunities. If that's a school, fine, if not, start jammming with as many players as you can while taking privately.Your sight-reading now is probably better than mine ever was although my theory was passable, the most important thing is what translates to the fingerboard and what you want to do on the instrument.
Best of luck'

Hey Willis,
Looking forward to see ya in houston texas someday!
Q. What can i do get get a really fat fretless tone??? i'm using eden amps/speakers & Carvin fretless,Boss Graphic eq,Boss Chorus. I was wondering if i should get one of those Boss digital reverb pedals, I've tried it and it looks like i could get a nice sound from it! , What do you think??????
Thanx a million
Alex....... :-)

I hope to get back to Houston soon myself, thanks.
The thing to do to get a great fretless tone is simply to buy the Ibanez/Willis Signature Bass;-)
Actually the Eden stuff is a good start. Unfortunately the Carvin is probably a neck-thru. A neck-thru bass is not able to resonate low frequencies as well as bolt-on, so you lose some depth there. Also, light wood (the GWB1 is light ash) helps to resonatel low frequencies. If I remember correctly, the Carvin rear pickup location is OK for fretless.
Light woods, bolt-on design and the right pickup in the right place are the main ingredients for good fretless tone.
If the sound doesn't come out of the bass, no amount of EQ or effects can save.
Start with the bass.

Hey Willis,
How did you decide that fretless was your voice? Was there something
that came about; or it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

Hey DZ
When I decided to get a fretless, it wasn't because I was searching for a "voice". I was actually in some be-bop bands and needed more of an acoustic sound or something that would fit better. That was the only real idea I had at the time.

Hey Willis,
Did I read in your BP interview that you used the Yamaha B1D midi pickup and G50 midi converter on Bent? If so can you elaborate on how well it works and what you use it for and what sound module you are using. I would mostly be into it for sequencing and maybe some live drums and bass improv stuff I do. I spent a large sum of money on a Peavey Cyberbass a few years ago and although it works ok it's tempermental and pretty much like learning a whole new instrument and there is no market for used ones. I am really interested in midi bass for reasons mentioned above but don't want to stray away from real bass to get into it.

Hey E
I used the Yamaha system on Bent and Thick and I also used it to write with. I works really well if you think of it as sort of like an octave pedal. In upper registers it tracks great, and like any octaver, the lower you go the slower the tracking gets. So, you could never expect it to replace your bass sound in a real situation where you were laying down a groove, but as long as you mixed in your real bass for some attack it's great.
On the Bent and Thick CD's I only used the Yamaha QY70 as a sound module. On "Cadillac" (Bent), I used a filtered kind of a bass sound and tracked it "live" with the real bass and another pickup through the envelope follower of the MPX-1 in stereo. On "Party at Kinsey's" (Thick), I used a heavily edited Gamelon Bell sound to fatten up a front-pickup fretless sound.

Hey Willis....
(from S.M.)
Dunno if you have seen these before but....


1. If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my mouth, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I'm chewing something up, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it's mine.
8. If I saw it first, it's mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it
automatically becomes mine.
10. If it's broken, it's yours.

1. Both take up too much space on the bed.
2. Both have irrational fears about vacuum cleaning.
3. Both mark their territory.
4. Neither tells you what's bothering them.
5. The smaller ones tend to be more nervous.
6. Both have an inordinate fascination with women's crotches.
7. Neither does any dishes.
8. Both fart shamelessly.
9. Neither of them notice when you get your hair cut.
10. Both like dominance games.
11. Both are suspicious of the postman.
12. Neither understands what you see in cats.

1. Dogs do not have problems expressing affection in public.
2. Dogs miss you when you're gone.
3. Dogs feel guilty when they've done something wrong.
4. Dogs admit when they're jealous.
5. Dogs are very direct about wanting to go out.
6. Dogs do not play games with you-except fetch (and they
never laugh at how you throw.)
7. You can train a dog.
8. Dogs are easy to buy for.
9. The worst social disease you can get from dogs is fleas.
10. Dogs understand what "no" means.
11. Dogs mean it when they kiss you.

10. A dog's parents will never visit you.
9. A dog loves you when you leave your clothes on the floor.
8. A dog limits its time in the bathroom to a quick drink.
7. A dog never expects you to telephone.
6. A dog will not get mad at you if you forget its birthday.
5. A dog does not care about the previous dogs in your life.
4. A dog does not get mad at you if you pet another dog.
3. A dog never expects flowers on Valentine's Day.
2. The later you are, the happier a dog is to see you.
1. A dog does not shop.

1. If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you'll get
what you want.
2. Don't go out without ID.
3. Be direct with people; let them know exactly how you
feel by piddling on their shoes.
4. Be aware of when to hold your tongue, and when to use it.
5. Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
6. Always give people a friendly greeting. A cold nose in the
crotch is effective.
7. When you do something wrong, always take responsibility
(as soon as you're dragged out from under the bed).
8. If it's not wet and sloppy, it's not a real kiss.

Hey Willis
I'm going to record with a "techno rock" band soon. So i have some questions for you: Do you have some tricks when recording ? What do you make "to be relaxed" ? Because i' m just feeling a little nervous !!!
So excuse me for my bad english and have nice day
thanks AB

Hey AB,
I don't really have any "tricks", I'm not that much of a studio vet. You can try to puting pressure on yourself now. Practice as if you were recording and if you screw up, don't let yourself stop. Keep the song going at all times. Try to simulate the recording environment. Try to create a headphone-typemix where you can't hear yourself that well and still try to perform. Basically try to create the mental frame of mind that you're trying to express yourself and the music so that the last thing on your mind is "mistakes" and evenif there are some, the idea is to be communicating musically.
Good Luck